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Blogger of the Week: Haute Haiku from Kenya

Haute Haiku is one of Global Voices’ newest Sub-Saharan African authors. He writes about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) blogosphere in Africa, including bloggers’ thoughts on HIV transmission among men who have sex with men, and how gays and lesbians are treated in East Africa. Haute also blogs about being a gay man in Africa on his personal blog, Single gay life in Kenya.

Haute Haiku

Haute Haiku

In many Sub-Saharan African countries, homosexuality is illegal and punishable by sentences ranging from payment of fines to several years or life in prison. According to the International Gay & Human Rights Council more than two thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex acts, and across the continent people are subject to both physical attacks and discrimination.

Though life in Kenya is reportedly becoming easier for gay people, there is still legislation in place that says homosexual men (not women) can be sent to prison for up to 14 years. In countries like Kenya, Uganda or Tanzania, laws like these have been in place since colonial times, while in Burundi a ban on homosexuality was only just introduced in April of this year.

Consequently, many gays and lesbians throughout Africa live in fear of having their sexual orientation discovered. A small number make use of blogs to help spread knowledge and understanding of what it means to be gay.

How did you start writing for Global Voices?

I got an email from Ndesanjo Macha our Sub-Saharan Africa editor asking if I could cover LGBT issues, and I thought why not? I was skeptical at first, just wondering how many good writers turned him down before he got to me.

How did you get interested in writing about LGBT issues?

I used to read other people's blogs in a jam when going to school. I thought: I could do this. Mostly I wanted to meet people I could identify with, and when I started, I made a vow not to write concerning hate, phobia, or gay rights. Just gay life in general; why we are single, dating etc. Some homophobic remarks from a senior person in government triggered this. I decided no more homo-ignorance.

If you had to, how would you characterize the African LGBT blogosphere?

Progressive. Every day, all sorts of people come out: young, old, confused. There are over 20 queer blogs in Kenya, and most are active. Everyone has got their own beliefs. Some believe in the gay gene, or think they run the gamut of the gay rights movement… And there are those who believe they do not have to be effeminate to be gay. It is all about celebrating diversity.

What are the African LGBT issues you are most interested in communicating to the rest of the world?

Gay marriages aside, I'd say safe sex and control. Since people of different sexual orientations exist, and African leaders have refused to acknowledge this, there should be a campaign for MSM (men who have sex with men). It is a sad fact, to them, but if they ignore this, it is going to blow right up in their faces. They shut down such clinics, and even the ones that are still open are not visited by gay people. The staff would like to help, but politicians say there is no place for gay men in Africa.

How many languages do you speak? How did you decide to blog in English?

Two: English, Swahili, and maybe three, if we are counting my mother tongue. I guess a lot of people blog in English in East Africa, and have gotten quite a lot of readers as a result.

What do you do when you're not blogging? What are some of your other interests or hobbies?

I am still in school, studying business management. My interests are practicing my slam poetry, which is spoken word poetry.

You can read all the posts written by Haute on Global Voices here.

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